Its no knickers – Dame Kiri wins cancellation case

April 2007

Live event industry

Opera star Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has won a court case in Australia after she cancelled a 2005 tour because she feared that she would be bombarded with underwear – as the planned co-headliner with Aussie veteran John (‘the Voice’) Farnham. Dame Kiri had seen a DVD of his shows where he caught underwear thrown by fans. Promoter Leading Edge had sued for A$2m (£815,000), claiming it had lost money on publicity costs and ticket sales but New South Wales Supreme Court Judge Patricia Bergin rejected the claim ruling that while there were emails in which venues, fees and air tickets for the proposed concerts were discussed, no firm commitment was made and no contract was finalized. Leading Edge said it had spent more than A$380,000 (£155,000) on preparations for the concerts, only to find that Dame Kiri’s agent former, Mr Grace, knew the singer was wavering on the performances but had failed to pass on the information. However Judge Bergin ordered Mattane, the company that employed Dame Kiri, to pay Leading Edge A$128,063 (£52,000) for costs incurred as the company had not been entirely honest in its dealings with Leading Edge. Comment: This type of case often reverts to the most basic rules of contract law – here formation of contract. In English law, a binding contract can only be formed after a valid offer and proper acceptance of that offer – and a contract must have terms which are certain. The contract must also have valid consideration and be for a legal purpose entered into by parties with capacity to contract. In negotiations and with exchanges of faxes and emails it is sometimes (but not always) impossible to actually define what offer has been accepted and on what terms – so whether or not a contract has actually been formed – and this case reflects the difficulty with these situations.

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